Bluebirds Swoop to Sink the Sports
A West Country afternoon best forgotten for an out-of-sorts Borough....
One routine goal, two tragi-comic goals and one wonder strike: a 4-0 defeat and possibly the Sports' poorest performance of the season. Match report? This is more like the feedback when your car has just failed its MoT, because at Chippenham, Borough's wheels pretty much came off. They were out of sorts, off the home side's pace and they sealed their own fate.
The game started badly, and got worse. After Ian Simpemba and Shaun Okojie had both headed over the home crossbar, respectively from a corner and a free-kick, Chippenham scored with their first attack. Andy Sandell went marauding down the right the right and crossed for Alex Ferguson to plant a simple header between defenders and past Mark Smith.
A minute later the Sports thought they had equalised from Taylor's low cross, but McCallum's finish was ruled out on a very tight offside call. The Borough ship was at least steadied for the next few minutes, though, and – in frankly their best spell of the match – there were a couple of good chances to level the scores. On 12 minutes, from Sergio Torres' long ball, Gavin miraculously kept the ball in play and pulled it back for Okojie, whose shot was on target but did not trouble keeper Jared Thompson. Then Okojie himself, with great control in the box, set Odubade perfectly, but Yemi's scudding low shot was saved.
Between those Borough chances, Smith had saved splendidly from Sandell to keep it at 1-0, but just after the half-hour his defence melted down. Chippenham's direct, ebullient style was throwing the Sports off their stride, and too often the men in red were getting there second. And on 32 minutes a swinging long ball from halfway turned the whole Sports defence and caught Smith and Harry Ransom waiting for each other, while Sandell pounded in, rounded the keeper and scored into an empty net.
Five minutes later the Bluebirds swooped again with a bizarre goal. Sandell – that man again – floated in a cross from the right which Will Hendon could only head straight up in the air. Josh Smile nipped in, nodded the arcing ball goalwards, straight off Smith's forehead, and into the net at the second attempt. All smiles? Not from the Borough.
A goal before half-time could have kept the game alive, and from a free-kick Simpemba headed down for Ransom to poke his shot wide, and then McCallum saw his narrow-angle shot clutched right on the goal-line.
But the Bluebirds – themselves not clear of relegation danger – were in no mood to let this one slip. Borough, sent out early from the dressing room, did open the second half with better purpose and a JT shot, charged down, signalled that the chase had not yet been given up.
Kiran Khinda-John replaced Yemi, joining a reshaped back three as Jamie Howell looked for a tactical turn of events. But the quality of play was poor and the game was no longer a realistic contest. Josh Smile hit one out of the ground before Gavin likewise joined the mile high club at the Chippenham end. On 68 minutes Taylor planted a header wide from what was Borough's best chance of the half, and later he was to loop an inventive effort fractionally past the far post. But by then it was all downhill.
With fifteen minutes left Town scored the goal of the game. A perfect supply from Mullings found Matt Smith on the right of the area, and his pinpoint square ball was met by Karnell Chambers with a peach of a volley at the back post. Smith had very possibly been offside, but the goal was such a shining moment in a gloomy afternoon that it probably deserved to stand anyway....
There was time for cameo apprearances by Tyler Pearson and Andrew Briggs – youngsters whose faithfulness in trekking across country week after week, just for a place on the bench, has been admirable. Perhaps they will get a further glimpse of action as the season comes to a close.
But this was an awful, forgettable performance. This reporter knows Borough quite well, as a team and as individuals. They are honest, likeable, low on ego, keen to succeed for themselves and for the club. But they are human, and they do not deserve scathing criticism. On Saturday, once those catastrophic goals went in, they could not find a way back. There are some days when you simply want to rewind the clock to 3.00pm, revert to nil-nil, and start again. But sadly the Laws of the Game do not actually permit it.
The journey home was morose, the players glum and inwardly furious; but they will bounce back. The manager will be scratching his head and he will demand a response, but sometimes that response does not come on the day, within the available 90 minutes. His squad have five more games to make amends – although, this being the Borough Class of '18, they will probably produce two sparkling wins, two maddening defeats and a goalless draw....
Borough: Smith; Hendon, Simpemba, Ransom, Edwards; Taylor, Harris, Torres (Pearson 60), McCallum; Okojie (Briggs 87), Odubade (Khinda-John 53). Unused subs: Dawes, Platt.
Referee: a perfectly competent Lee Brennan, sparing with the yellow cards.
Attendance: a healthy 571 – good support at a friendly, down-to-earth club who fully deserve to stay in the division
Borough MoM: not awarded
(This match report is the personal view of its author Kevin Anderson, and does not necessarily reflect the views of EBFC.)